“If a man lives, then he must believe in something.”
Tolstoy, 1879-82, Pg.54
We have for quite some time now, lived in an age preoccupied with reason.
We expect and desire everything to abide by the rules we have developed, and this systematic approach has allowed us to progress in many valuable ways. The truth matters, otherwise we would be in a constant whirlpool of uncertainties, falsehoods and have to indulge in even more fallacious arguments. There must be some definite criteria of objective truth and we should be in constant search of it. However, there are dangers in forcing the margins we use to define the truth in objective terms, onto matters of the soul.
The biggest question facing every single one of us is the greatest oddity.
If we apply objective reasoning to it, it looks something like this: we live and we die, regardless of what we do in-between the outcome is the same. By all accounts life is suffering and at the end of it all we fade into the abyss along with everything we did that we thought mattered. With this reasoning, the paradoxical question remains; why are we here, and why do we continue to live?
This is the question that so many people struggle with, both consciously and unconsciously and if we completely submit to objective reason only, it is difficult to see any hope in living.
If you speak to someone who is suicidal, more often than not you will find they relay the same message in many different ways; there is no sense, no purpose, no hope, no meaning, too much despair and the result is the same regardless. What is the point. And they would be right, if we are to only acknowledge objective truth. Which is why it is lacking, when speaking about matters of the soul, to demand that only that which we can explain within our structures of objective reasoning, can be a valid source of truth.
Why haven’t we all participated in a mass suicide as soon as we figured out this stark reality. Why is it that when faced with the harrowing truth that we will all suffer, we will all die and our efforts forgotten; so many of us choose to continue living anyway.
“And it occurred to me that there might be something I did not yet know. After all, that is exactly how ignorance behaves. Ignorance always says what I am saying.”
Tolstoy, 1879-82, Pg.48
People have faith in the essence of life; that which exists outside of the objective truth.
We engage as if what we do matters and is consequential; we strive to live well, to raise good children, to contribute to our society and we chastise those who don’t. There is pragmatic value in the fact that possessing faith allows us to act like our lives do matter despite all reason. Despite it seeming like we are just temporary cogs in an elaborate clock, there is belief in our place here.
It seems the concept of faith has been hijacked, and is openly sneered upon.
It is dismissed as nonsense and those who indulge in it as naive and not existing in the ‘real’ world. But by simply choosing to be alive means we have faith. Faith is seeing the darkest corners and choosing to continue on anyway. Faith is not exclusive to people who have firm belief in God; for people who cannot reconcile God with their sense of reason, they still have faith in the validity of their life and how they should live it. Faith upon definition may not be objectively satisfying, but in its implementation, it’s validity is sound.
There is great fear in seeing the truth of our existence and trying to face it with faith.
But considering we have been doing it as people since the beginning of time, perhaps we need to recognise it as a genuine truth. A genuine truth that facilitates our ability to exist despite both the odds and the compelling, objective reasons not to. It is, perhaps, of great importance to acknowledge that which cannot be reasoned in objective terms, but pragmatically shines true. This intrinsic ability of people to hold faith should not be beaten out by the insistence of implementing these margins. They cannot answer our paradox; we exist in spite of them.
“I began to realise that the most profound wisdom of man is preserved in the answers given by faith, and that I did not have the right to negate them on the grounds of reason and, above all, that it is these answers alone that can reply to the question of life.”
Tolstoy, 1879-82, Pg. 56
Tolstoy, Leo. (1879-82), A Confession, A Confession and Other Religious Writings, Translated by Jane Kentish, Penguin Classics.